“Waking Up” was my favourite Elastica song for ages thanks to that fantastic arpeggiated riff*. Which it turns out was written by the Stranglers! Elastica got slapped with a lawsuit due to the song’s similarity with “No More Heroes”, and the band was forced to cough up the cash and give Cornwell/Burnel/Duffy/Greenfield a co-credit. Apparently JJ Burnel was quite flattered about the whole business, saying that it had introduced a whole new generation of fans to the Stranglers.
I was one of those new fans. I’d never heard the Stranglers prior to Elastica — Hugh & Co were too risqué and too noisy for Capital FM, which played stuff like Gerry Rafferty and 10CC back then.
“Waking Up” was an instant hit with me, and I determinedly set about learning the complicated** finger picking on my £12 half-size Argos acoustic. I also made the link that Dad’s Stranglers Singles Collection CD was actually THESE Stranglers and not some old codgers that sounded like Dire Straits (well not on that CD, anyway). I discovered that lo and behold, I liked the Stranglers just as much as Justine did!
By the time I was 20 I owned 6 Stranglers albums (plus Dad’s CD that I swiped), and had hand-programmed the riff to “No More Heroes” as the ringtone for my old Nokia phone (thus proving once and for all it was Clearly Different to the “Waking Up” riff). I also went to see a cheerful, heroin-free Hugh Cornwell play an acoustic set at Borders in Oxford (plugging some book or other). I took my CDs with me, and after the set I queued up to get them signed.
As he scribbled on the CD inlays in marker pen, I attempted to defend Justine’s pilfering with the ‘Napster’ defence.
“You know, I only started listening to the Stranglers because of Elastica. I wouldn’t have bought your albums if it wasn’t for them.”
Hugh didn’t even look up, but gruffly replied, “Well they’re not here signing your stuff, are they?”
Cheer up Hugh! Elastica had made you lots of money! At least I got my albums signed.
*Definitely not because of the naked men in the video.
**Challenging but rewarding to the beginner guitarist! Do an Am/D7sus4 shape, hammer on the D, then switch up to D chord and back down. I just tried playing the entire riff the other night after a grillion years without picking up the guitar, and I can STILL DO IT. Observe:
I had NO idea that were were naked men in this video. Imagine if I had known that when I was fourteen! I would have… well, probably bought the album the first time I saw the video (which is what I did anyway the very first time I heard “Connection”) and then sat in front of MTV for 16 hours a day waiting for it to come on (which is kind of what I did with “Car Song.”) Which, on second thought, maybe I’m glad I didn’t know about the naked men until now…